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9 survival tips for the novice picker-up

Picking up for the first time ever this season? Here's what you need to know ...

pheasant shooting on a budget

What should you expect when you’re picking-up on a shoot for the day? Very little pay, anti-social hours and a good day’s sport in the company of kindred spirits.

Joining a picking-up team for the first time can be a bit daunting – a bit like gaining acceptance to an exclusive club. Here are some tactful moves that will help the newcomer along…

1. Identify the Top Dog

There is always a captain of sorts. A competent leader will ensure all members get a fair turn and ensure that nobody continually monopolises the ‘sweet spot’ in the line, with the best view and the most action. It is irritating when a self-important picker-up says: “I always go there…” before stomping off to take up the same choice position in the field.

2. Know the territory

Learn the layout of the land you are expected to cover. Commit the names of each drive to memory.

3. Be a team player

A good team dynamic is vital to the team’s efficiency.

4. Keep that chin up

Sometimes you will find yourself in the bleakest spot, far from the action and questioning if you are even in the right place. Worse still, you may question the ability of your dogs. While you cannot be judged solely by the amount of birds your dogs retrieve it is still dispiriting to trudge back to the game cart with nothing to show from the drive, yet again. Accept with good grace that everyone on the team will experience that wilderness emotion now and then, and today it was your turn.

5. Go the extra mile

Be prepared to walk a long way back for a bird. It may be just the one but it is a great ego boost to retrieve that difficult mark or elusive runner.

Know the layout of the land

6. Don’t boast

Avoid blowing your own trumpet; even if the drive and subsequent retrieve were akin to one of the trials of Hercules your team mates really don’t care. The very best retrieves are singular pleasures, witnessed only by yourself and a panting, mud-spattered accomplice (who has no ego…)

7. Share the love

One common emotion that informs our hobby is our unconditional love for dogs. Take an interest in the other dogs and applaud a good retrieve, enquire about the dog’s breeding and comment on its fine looks. The owner will bask in the reflected glory and your stock will rise.

8. Beware of ‘the long shot’

Unless you have unshakeable confidence in your ability to pull it off (and are out of sight of your peers), avoid the fancy stuff. This can take many forms, but if you fail your frantic whistling and semaphore-like flailing will alert the rest of the team, which may be already willing the rookie picker-up to fail.

9. Be generous

When your turn comes to furnish the tipple don’t whip out the saddest, most diminutive bottle of sloe gin; a good-sized measure of the home-made variety is a sure way to win friends.